Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2011
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2016
Grant Year
Project Director
Tegegne, F.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences
Non Technical Summary
Small farms account for about 91% of all farms in the United States and are an important component of rural communities. Despite their number and importance, small farmers face several challenges including high costs of inputs, low product prices and limited access to markets. Other forces that impact small farmers are rapid changes in the global market place, changes in government regulations and emergence of new technologies. The explosive growth in demand for local foods represents an unprecedented opportunity for producers of fruits, vegetables and other high-value niche products to enhance their profitability while also supporting rural economic development. Further, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has the potential to temper if not reverse the staggering increases in obesity rates in the United States . Yet small farmers lack the scale, resources, knowledge and skill sets required to take advantage of emerging direct or indirect local market opportunities. These constraints are often even more pressing for minority and other underserved farmers who may traditionally not have benefited from land grant university Extension programs. Economic and social networks organized around local and regional food systems or value chains have the potential to increase these farmers? access to the resources, skills and scale of logistical or distribution assets that are prerequisites for profitable expansion into urban markets. This project will provide opportunity to expand networks for small farmers in Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. These networks do not currently exist or, if they do, are not functioning at their full potential. This project will foster cultural diversity of the food and agricultural scientific and professional work force. It will also enhance and strengthen programs by contributing to the emerging knowledge base of social network science, shifting focus within Extension from the individual farmer viewed in isolation to an understanding of individuals? positions within a network, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the viability of small farms and rural communities. Documenting high value crops and value added enterprises can be beneficial to small farmers in the participating and other states. The development of curriculum and Best Management Practices (BMPs) will also benefit farmers in the four states and beyond. Small farmers? knowledge about networks and value chains will also be developed. A better understanding of factors affecting small farmers? decision to join networks will be established. Measureable outcomes will include the number of farmers reached and their gain in knowledge of high value crops, alternative enterprises, entrepreneurship, value chains and adoption of such knowledge and associated benefits gained. Most importantly, the social network analysis itself is a powerful tool for evaluation because it easily produces quantifiable measures in the form of various network outcomes.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Small farmers and rural small businesses face no greater challenge -- or opportunity -- than that of achieving cost-effective access to consumers in urban and other markets. The objectives of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary integrated project are as follows: 1) evaluate participation by small farmers in six pre-identified value-chain networks; 2)analyze profitability of high value crops and value added enterprises and associated production, management and innovative marketing strategies that benefit small farmers and contribute to rural development; 3) explore individual, social, cultural and demographic factors that affect small farmers' intentions to join networks; 4) develop and deliver online curriculum for conducting network analysis and strengthening networks and 5) make project-derived Best Management Practices widely available. The project draws on emerging insights from network science and applies them to farm-level research, Extension activities and classroom education. Students will have opportunities for experiential learning. This undertaking is novel not only for 1890 institutions but the land grant system overall. Tennessee State University is the lead with the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Delaware State, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development collaborating.The proposal, which addresses the need area of Studies and Experimentation in Food and Agricultural Sciences, can significantly strengthen the research, teaching, and extension capacity of the land grant system overall.
Project Methods
The project draws on emerging insights from network science and applies them to farm-level research, Extension activities and classroom education. Students will have opportunities for experiential learning. This undertaking is novel not only for 1890 institutions but the land grant system overall. The project will generate field data that will be analyzed to provide results that farmers can use to make decisions about their operations. In short, the proposed project will yield practical results that can improve the economic viability of small farmers and rural communities. The results will also provide useful input for other stakeholders including policy makers. The dissemination of network analysis tools, and the understanding of how to use them, will be critical for educators as they deal with stakeholders who increasingly demand access to and use of such tools. The focus of this project is not merely on expanding the number of users, but to apply science to understand growing networks of farmer-collaborators. Evaluation which will be incorporated from the beginning will be process and outcome oriented. Process evaluation consists of the timely meeting of milestones such as the start of data collection or the completion of other specific tasks as specified in the timetable section. Outcome evaluation, however, must determine if the stated objectives have been met. The monitoring and evaluation component of this project will use measurable objectives to track progress.Criteria for measuring progress will be established for each of the anticipated outcomes and will be in quantifiable terms, while in some cases the assessment will be qualitative. Record will be kept on all aspects of project activities including educational services provided to participants, such as short courses, training programs conducted, as well as training manuals/modules developed, and number of people assisted.

Progress 09/01/11 to 08/31/16

Target Audience:Presentations were made to stakeholders including small farmers,extension educators, researchers and agicultural policy makersatannual small farm meetings held on the campuses of Tennessee State University, Delaware State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.In addition,a large number of stakeholders were reached at the nationalsmall farm research and outreach conference. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?The primary target audience to benefit from the training is expected to be small farmers. This will be achieved by using the trinining manual developed by this collaborative project. The project palso pdovidedtraining opportunities for a graduate student who is using a portion of the data to write a master's thesis and a post doc focusingon network analysis. This provided opportunity for both of them to learn the methodology of network analysis and itsapplication. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Results of this project have been disseminated both at research and outreach meetings attended by various stakeholders ranging from small farmers to policy makers at local,state and national levels. The network training manual, the fact sheet and the outreach publication will all be posted on line to make them widely available to stakeholders. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?The network training manual and fact sheet are being finalized. Additional publications involving other aspectswill be developed.

What was accomplished under these goals? Accomplishment of this project are applied with practical use toenhance the operations of small farmers. The first accomplisment is the development of a manual that will provide guide for extensioneducators to trainfarmers in conducting network analysisThe manual is based on field research using primary data from the three partnering states. Other publicstions involve fact sheet and outreach publication pertaining to how to work with minority farmers. Additional publications will be developed based on the other aspects. Second, profitability ranking of the different produce was basedon weekly sales numbers provided by the producers.Tomatoes are found to be the most profitableproduce. Paricipation in network seems to vary among different demographic charateristics. Below are some results. Minority groups especially African Americansand Asians are significantly more likelyto be engagedin network than others. Older people are more likely to engage in network especislly in seeking advice and sharing resources than younger ones. There is no significant difference in gender and marital status in paricipating in network but, female farmers are found to be less involved than their male counterparts. There is a significant positive relationship between sales volume ans involvement in Network. The results suggest that network is important for small farmers with a potential to overcomevarious constaints including volume and marketing.strategy that can be achieved by linking with businesses in the area. It can be observed hat research from this project has generated important products that are significant.


  • Type: Other Status: Awaiting Publication Year Published: 2016 Citation: 1. Network Analysis Of Farmer Groups: A Training manual for Extension Educators 2. Network Science and its benefits to Small and minority producers-Fact sheet.

Progress 09/01/14 to 08/31/15

Target Audience:The target audience are smal farmers growing different types ofproduce, extension agents, researchers, rural communities, students and policy makers. Changes/Problems:Getting the survey completed by farmers in a timely manner was a challenge. This slowed down the data entry and analysis. However, persistence by project researchers made acqsition of data possible. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?A post doc has been engaged in igenerating network charts as well as other aspects. Some of the researchers and extension educatoron the peoject are acquiring deeper insights on the application of network analysis. A student is also benefitting by being involved in the project and using project data. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?.. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Analyze the data using econometric model and develop a manuscript for publication in refrred journal. Complete the draft outreach publication on network analysisthat wouod be available on line making it accessible to all stakeholders. Organize a symposium on Network Analysis at a professional meeting. Identify other aspects on which to develop additional publications.

What was accomplished under these goals? The cleaning of the data is completed. Network charts showing links among farmersare have been revised based on the cleaned data. Different econometric models are being considered to select the one with best fit for the data.. A student is using a portion of the data to write her Master's thesis. There is plan to share results from the project with stakeholders by organizing a symposium on Network Analysis at the 2016 annual meeting of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. A draft document on network Analysis for use by extension educators has been developed.


    Progress 09/01/13 to 08/31/14

    Target Audience: The target audience for the project are diverse and include produce growers, extension agents, rural communities, researchers, policy makers, students and researchers. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Post Doctoral Associates at two of the collaborating universities have been involved in implementing the survy as well as assist in generating the charts. Similarly students working towards the master's degree have learned the methodology of network anlalysis. One of the students is working under the guidance of one of the researchers on outreach material pertaining to network analysis. Some of the researchers on the project are also getting acquainted with the application of network analysis. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Nothing Reported What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? During the next reporting period we plan to generate results and widely disseminate them to stakeholders. This will be achieved using various means including presentations and by making them available using electronic medium. Outreach material on network analysis developed by project researchers will be posted on web site. The researchers will develop comprehensive project report and manuscripts for publication in refreed journals. Students will also use portion of the data to write their theses and senior projects on topics involving network analys. The findings are expected to provide input for policy makers and others working with small and medium-sized farmers and rural comunities. The methodology of network analysis and the findings can also be encorporated into classroom teaching as appropriate.

    What was accomplished under these goals? A concptual framework was developed and a detailed survey instrument was admnistered to selected produce growers. Responses received from growers were checked, coded and entered into the computer. Desciptive results were generated from the data. Mapping of the links among farmers was done to capture a visual picture of the strength of linkages among different growers. farmers. The top profitable fruits and vegetables produced were identified.


      Progress 09/01/12 to 08/31/13

      Target Audience: Small Produce growers Extension agents Rural communities Researchers Policy makers other stakeholders working with produce growers Changes/Problems: Some of the study sites originally selected are replaced by others due to practical challenges faced in administering the survey. This has slightly slowed the data collection effort. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? In the process of literature review researchers on the project are acquiring in-depth understanding of network analysis. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Nothing Reported What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Check survey responses received for completeness; organize, code and enter the data into the computer; conduct descriptive analysis of each survey question to assess the adequacy of the data for network analysis. A graduate student will be recruited to assist on the above tasks.

      What was accomplished under these goals? Have been conducting review of theoretical and empirical literature regarding network analysis Developing conceptual framework. Administering face to face survey to produce growers in all three collaborating states still underway.


        Progress 09/01/11 to 08/31/12

        OUTPUTS: Researchers at the collaborating instituions-namely Tennessee State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Delaware State University and Penn State University held face to face meeting and through several conference calls to develop survey instrument which is currently being pre-tested in the different states. Tennessee State University has secured IRB approval while the other instituions are waiting for a similar approval from their respective instituions. The survey focuses on identifying networks among farmers involving different aspects including production, marketing, sharing resources among producers, types of enterprises operated, their profitability, and socio-demographic characteristics of the operators.The list of farmers in the selected study areas are provided to the researchers in each state by the local county extension agents. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals working on the project at Tennessee State University are: F. Tegegne, L. LI, S. P. Singh, E. Ekanem, P. Dharma. Collaborators are: S. Tubene, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, A. Wetherill, Delaware State University and S. Goetz, North East Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State University. TARGET AUDIENCES: Specialty crops producers, extension professionals,researchers, enterpreneurs, policy makers, students and faculty. The methodology of network analysis can be applied widely. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: None

        Network analysis is a relatively new area and researchers on the project are examining whateer relevant material exists. Students will also get involved in mailing the survey, entering the survey data and use some of it for writing their theses. Results of this study are expected to be beneficial to multiple stakeholders including producers of various specialty crops, extension professionals, researchers and policy makers.


        • No publications reported this period